Saturday, February 8, 2014

Saturday Sayings: Backpacks and Pockets



Backpacks and pockets can at times be loaded down with all sorts of items from home.  Sometimes I wonder, "Do your parents know you brought that to school?"  I rarely make a fuss as long as they don't become a problem in the classroom.  This year is different, and yet I can't really make a fuss, at least not in front of the kids.  I've had a parade of bulging backpacks and pockets in my room laden down with all kinds stuff from home - jail sentences, excessive moving from school to school, ODD, Bi-polar, visits from Child Protection Services, days without meds, changing of meds, little to no food at home, staying up too late, abuse, and the list goes on, and I only know a small portion of what weighs them down.  

To put it lightly, it's been a doozy of a year.  The above quote explains why.  The burdens of home cannot be separated from these little people and their ability to learn, think, focus, socialize, problem solve, follow directions, etc.  Those backpacks and pockets are so bulging that there's nowhere else for the stuff to go but out.  And out it does come on a daily basis, tumbling out around them at recess, in my room, at lunchtime, during PE.  There's no place in the school exempt from the affects.    

I can only control what I can control, and I have zero control over life at home.  I wish I had all the answers.  I know that trust and relationship make a huge difference for these kids.  Can I be completely honest though and say that hasn't been necessarily easy to establish?  Some little lives are so laden down, that the moment they walk into the room, you can tell they're not going to give you much of a chance.  At times, okay so most of the time, I don't feel qualified to lighten their loads and teach them at the same time.  It feels like a monumental task that's far beyond my capabilities.  What I'd really like to do is launch those backpacks into the creek behind the school, forever to leave these children, my classroom, and me alone, so we can simply and completely enjoy learning together, for once.  


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28 comments:

  1. What a heartfelt post, Tammy! You are a blessing to children each year, but especially this year to those with the fullest backpacks and pockets. Your room may possibly be the only safe and loving environment that they experience. Thank you for being there for them, still loving them and doing your best to teach them despite the overflowing backpacks and pockets they are dragging with them.
    Lori
    Conversations in Literacy

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    1. Thank you Lori. I hope my classroom is that for them.

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  2. What a beautiful metaphor. Kids can come with so much baggage, can't they. I love your heart for wanting to lighten their load and just take care of them. Your loving kindness will make all the difference.

    Barbara

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    1. Barbara, thank you. I need as much loving kindness as I can get.

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  3. Beautifully written, my dear. I am absolutely certain that you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your impact on these little ones.

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    1. Thank you Laur. You have such faith in me.

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  4. Tammy,
    You are a blessing to those children each and every day!
    I must be having the same year.
    And I too wish that I could throw those burdensome backpacks far enough away, to lighten the load....
    Here's to never giving up on those that need us most!

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    1. Julie, I'm sorry to hear you know all too well what I'm talking about. It's hard, but you're right. We can't give up.

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  5. And yet, we the teachers are blamed for anything and everything that gets in the way of learning. There is rarely any mention of the parents' role in how a child grows and develops socially and academically. It's always the schools who are failing our children.
    Connie Anderson

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    1. Connie, I'd sure like to think that my classroom can meet the needs of all children who come my way. (Lofty goal, huh?) This year, I've come across some children who my best doesn't seem good enough for.

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  6. Did you read my journal?! Each morning, within 5 minutes I can tell who has been spanked, who hasn't eaten, who needs a nice bath. Breaks.My.Heart. Just yesterday, I saw an open pair of scissors head towards another child's face...over a lost piece of paper. Thankfully, I did see this moment and stopped it.

    Somehow, we manage to give lots of hugs and high-fives, learn to read, write some words, count to 100, etc, and etc. I wish we had more time for circle sharing, singing, and play. More each day, I find myself thinking that the academic push-down is harming our children. I'm not saying that many of them are incapable of doing the work--but I'm firmly convinced that most of my class needs a strong foundation in social skills before they can fly, academically. Asking them to "do the work" is causing more stress.

    They have enough of that already. HUGS, Tammy! I'm in your corner.
    ReadWriteSing

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    1. Chrissy, thank you for being in my corner. You're right. There are too many little ones who know what stress is like, even before stepping into a classroom.

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  7. The very first Saturday saying I read here was the Allington quote about how schools must work for all children, regardless of the parents the children happened to get. That is so challenging. And it's especially challenging in the years when all the kids with heavy "backpacks" seem to be concentrated in the same classroom. Your kids are lucky to have you.

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    1. Lee, I found myself thinking about that same Allington quote while I was working on this post. I was afraid of sounding like a hypocrite. I still do believe Allington is right. I'm just not sure of exactly how to pull it off, especially for these particular kids.

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  8. Tammy, I love the analogy to backpacks and pockets full of all the "stuff" kids bring from home. When I first taught in a very low income and violent district I assumed that I would be able to make my classroom a safe space that would somehow allow the children to leave their "backpacks" outside the room. I found out that I was very naive. I know what you mean about trust being hard to establish but I am absolutely sure that any child who's life you touch is truly blessed.

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    1. Lyn, wouldn't it be nice if they could leave their backpacks outside the room? Thank you for your encouraging words.

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  9. Amen to throwing out the backpacks! Your children are very blessed to have you as a teacher. I am blessed to have found your blog to read. Your words let me know I am not alone in this teaching journey full of crazy twists and turns. I am having a similar year - sometimes I wonder if the stars were lined up wrong the year these children were born. Just yesterday a little guy had me close to tears as he described to me in detail the repeated beatings he was watching his dad give his mom ~ no wonder his homework is incomplete and he's having trouble concentrating at school. Thank you for being here as we unite together through blogland and do the very best for each child who enters our classrooms. Maria

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    1. Maria, thank you for encouraging me to do my very best for each child. I'm sorry that you know all too well what I'm talking about.

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  10. Ooph, you said a mouthful. I find myself learning so much about how to be with my own children when I see the stuff other children must deal with. I am careful with my classroom children to always get down and quietly greet each child asking them if they need anything to start the day. I love when their little faces light up as they remember that I care and that the day will be safe. Great post.

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    1. Kimberley, I can see you being so good at dealing with your little ones and the baggage kids bring with them.

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  11. Love this post, Tammy. It's tough working with kids when they're going through all this stuff that kids shouldn't have to deal with. But rest assured, you're definitely making a positive difference.

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    1. Thank you Barb. It is for sure tough - tougher than anything I've done before.

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  12. Your class sounds like several of our little firsties this year... we've been many of the same situations you have found yourself in this year too. You said it so beautifully.... I wish we could toss all their worries, cares, and home lives in the creek! :)
    Maria

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    1. Maria, I'm sorry that you know what I'm talking about. I wish we could fix these problems.

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  13. Thank you Tammy for pointing out that children are carrying burdens into the classroom. What a challenge it is to learn when our lives are full of distractions! They are blessed to have you when they are at school. Sending prayers for strength and courage!
    Literacy Minute

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    1. Sandra, thank you for the encouragement and prayers.

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  14. So, so true. It is sad what some kids are carrying around at such a young age....even worse that we can't fix it for them. Sometimes it is hard to consider all that baggage when we really want/need to be teaching them and we really want/need them to be learning!

    Crystal

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    1. Crystal, it's very sad, especially since we typically can't save them from it all.

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